I remember the way it felt: walking out of the airport into the humid Houston, TX air after flying halfway around the world, heart racing at the excitement of being back in the United States. I remember embracing familiar faces I hadn’t seen in years that were waiting there to pick us up. I remember the car ride from the airport to my cousins’ house. I’d look out the car window in awe. “Look how green it is here!” “Everything is written in English!” “Everyone is wearing shorts!”
As a full-blooded Texan, growing up in the Middle East until I was 15 was certainly an interesting experience. By the age of five, I had ridden a camel in front of the Pyramids of Giza, I had walked the footsteps of Jesus in Jerusalem, and I had swam several times in the Red Sea, the very sea that God led the Israelites safely through as they were being pursued by the Egyptians. Living there certainly had its exciting experiences, but, looking back at the age of 23, I never forget how it felt to go back to the U.S. to visit. I was always overcome by a tidal wave of appreciation for the simplest things. I felt like Charlie entering Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory for the first time. Everyday life in America was like a wonderland to me.
Recently, though, I realized something about myself. In the 8 years since returning permanently to Texas, I realized something happened that I thought never would. Somewhere along the road I lost my appreciation for the simple joys of American life. I live in such an incredibly free, opportunity-filled and beautiful country; yet, somehow, I lost the awe I once felt for this place. I allowed time and familiarity to adjust my appreciation level. The truth is that America is no less wonderful, beautiful, or exciting as it used to be. I just allowed myself to become numb to those incredible things.
After stumbling upon that realization, I began to examine other places in my life where I had grown a lack of appreciation for the wonderful things in my life: my education, my car, my home, even the countless clothing items I couldn’t wait to wear when I purchased them that I now haven’t worn in over a month. All of those things, at one point, brought great joy and excitement to my heart. Now, they have taken their place at the back of my mind as I look for the next big thing.
The more I examined this flaw of mine, the more I began to wonder where my loss of appreciation was coming from. What was the root of all of this? Why did I stop caring as much about these things? If these things in my life weren’t changing, why were my feelings towards them changing? After spending time pondering this weakness in my life, it finally dawned on me!
This attitude of mine, of letting these amazing things in my life lose excitement and, ultimately, importance, was coming from my lack of gratitude.
James 1:17 says that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father….” That means that every good thing in my life is a thought-out, lovingly given gift from God Himself! That is such a beautiful thought; yet, so often I don’t respond to those gifts with that thought in mind!
I am sure that many of you can relate to this weakness. It’s hard to stay grateful for the things you have when you see advertisements everywhere you turn telling you that you need some new product or when you see your friends showing off their new clothing or listen to them talking about their amazing new jobs. Even if you want to be grateful for God’s gifts in your life, you may not know how to get past the point of being stuck in your lack of gratitude.
I am a very practical thinker, and I am always looking for applicable solutions to the problems I face. Thankfully, God graciously brought me a couple of practical solutions for my ingratitude that I try to implement in my daily life
1. Speak out your gratitude.
Don Stephens, A wonderful teacher that I had the privilege of listening to during my Discipleship Training School, said, “The more we respond to beauty, the greater our capacity grows to see more beauty.” Gratitude works the same way! The more we speak out the things we are grateful for, the more we understand what all God has done for us.
There is something so powerful about speaking something out loud. Proverbs 12:18 says that our tongues have the ability to speak out destruction and healing. This means that God has put power in words and has given us power to speak out and change things!
Speak out your gratitude to God. Give Him the glory He deserves for the generosity He has shown you, and use your words to allow Him to build up a foundation of gratitude for your life.
2. Ask God to adjust your mindset.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” God is the only one who is able to bring about true renewal of your mind. No matter how hard we try, we cannot overcome our flesh and our human nature on our own. We need God’s help in order to live with a mindset of gratitude.
Thankfully, God wants to help us! When we ask Him to work in our lives, He gladly does exactly that. 1 John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us,” and Matthew 7:9-11 says, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” God wants to see us be successful in the things He calls us to, and gratitude is certainly one of those things! Ask God to adjust your mindset. Press into Him and His truth, and He will bring renewal in that area.
Living in such a fast-paced and materialistic world can make gratitude difficult to hold onto. Thankfully, though, with God’s help, we can break down our ingratitude and allow God to make us more like Him. Let’s speak out the things we are grateful for and ask God to adjust our mindsets! Let’s allow God’s power to mold us into people who actually see and appreciate the blessings He has given us so that we can better reflect His heart to the darkness around us.
Another way to allow God to change your mindset is by doing a Discipleship Training School! Give Him five months of your life to open your eyes, to change your heart, and to challenge you in ways you never thought about before. As you learn about God in lecture phase and then apply His truth into the world during outreach, He will change your life in the most incredible ways!